LSC Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request Sent to Congress
WASHINGTON – The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) asked Congress today for $527.8 million for Fiscal Year 2018 because of the overwhelming need for civil legal services in the United States. LSC is the largest single funder of civil legal aid in the country, distributing more than 93% of its funding to 133 independent legal aid organizations serving every county in every state and the territories. The $25.1 million increase over last year’s request will enable LSC grantees to serve 3.35% more people in FY 2018 than in FY 2016.
“LSC’s bipartisan Board of Directors recognizes the pressing need to expand access to our country's civil justice system through the delivery of legal aid,” said LSC Chair John G. Levi. “We agree that a significant increase in LSC funding is needed if we are to fulfill the promise of justice reflected in the first line of our Constitution. As Congressman Tom Emmer declared at our recent Access to Justice Forum, ‘What [LSC] has been committed to for years has nothing to do with party lines or partisanship. It has everything to do with our shared goal that everyone in this country has the right to equal and fair representation under the law.’”
Every day, legal aid offices provide critical constituent services to Americans. More than 60% of all cases closed by LSC grantees involve family law and housing matters. Last year, 527,444 women were helped by LSC grantees, mostly mothers seeking custody of their children and protection orders from abusive spouses. Seniors victimized by consumer scams and veterans seeking earned benefits also frequently turn to civil legal aid offices for help. Last year, LSC grantees helped nearly 100,000 veterans and their family members nationwide.
Nationwide, there is an enormous gap between the number of people who need legal services and the resources currently available to meet their needs. The population eligible for LSC-funded legal assistance is immense. Currently 60.6 million people, or almost 20% of U.S. population, are eligible for LSC-funded legal services nationwide. LSC’s current funding of $385 million enabled grantees to assist only 1.8 million people in households served in 2016. Legal aid is particularly important to rural communities. While 20% of the nation’s population resides in rural areas, only 2% of lawyers serve these communities.
Civil legal aid is a good investment. State studies show that providing civil legal services saves millions of dollars in homeless shelter costs, domestic violence, medical and mental health expenses, and social services. The federal contribution to civil legal aid (36.8% of total funding to LSC grantees) allows millions of Americans to safeguard their basic legal rights.
LSC’s budget request includes $5 million each for its Pro Bono Innovation Fund and Technology Initiative Grants. Over the past three years, LSC has invested more than $10 million in 37 different projects in 27 states on projects that support efforts to engage lawyers and other professionals in pro bono services. LSC has also been a national leader in using technology to enhance legal services, funding more than 600 technology projects since 2000 that increase access to high-quality legal services, to the judicial system, and to legal information.